To John Balfour   18 April 1874

Private 1




I had the pleasure, dear Prof. Balfour, to salute your excellent son on Board of the Challenger and met him on one or two occasions afterwards, missing however the young Gentleman on two occasions when subsequently I went on Board, as he had friends residing here, with whom he mainly was.2 The unfortunate breaking up of my Department deprived me of all means of showing to the gentlemen of the Challenger any real attention; but I had an opportunity to explain at some length to Prof Wyville Thomson, that I had only one single room left for dried plants and only £300 working expenses for my whole Department. So what little yet is done must be mainly carried out through my own modest Salary, and with that in a country so expensive like this of course little can be done. I also could not help to mention to your colleague, who was most kind, that I had to go through the bitter experience of perceiving, how the men of science of England had not taken the slightest notice of the fact in all communications with me, that I was left without any means to carry on creditably & efficiently my researches. Not even my laboratory was left me. So of course the laboratory branch, the field branch, the interchange [&] test branch, indeed almost every thing has ceased to exist. Whether the Department will be reestablished the future must show. All other Departments are largely (some even lavishly) endowed here, except mine, and yet I have done nothing either politically or in any other way to deserve such a treatment.

I feel it my duty to you, venerable friend, to point all this ruin out to you, lest you should charge me with indifference to your son. But I am now homeless, and no longer young and all my private means (to the extent of £8000) have been sacrificed in the departmental service, without my ever speculating and without even my building up a household. Indeed I had to take refuge to a small hotel,3 and there is also my Office room! since 10 month!

How very differently did the parliament & people of England of all classes act to Hooker.4

Your son looked hale and happy; and thus the world with all its hopes is before him, while he may be proud of the heritage of an illustrious name.

Always, venerable friend, your regardful

Ferd. von Mueller

Continuation sheet of letter also so headed.
Andrew Balfour. See notes to M to G. Bentham, 21 March 1874.
Mortons Hotel, Milswyn Street, South Yarra, Vic.
See MacLeod (1974).

Please cite as “FVM-74-04-18,” in Correspondence of Ferdinand von Mueller, edited by R.W. Home, Thomas A. Darragh, A.M. Lucas, Sara Maroske, D.M. Sinkora, J.H. Voigt and Monika Wells accessed on 9 December 2022,